Murkowski Urges Secretary of Army to Remove Barrier to Substance Abuse Care for Alaskans

Senator Asks for Lower 48 Regulations to Be Rethought for Alaska Troop Care

 As United States Army soldiers in Alaska cope with the lingering impacts of more than a dozen years of sustained combat operations abroad, Senator Lisa Murkowski is asking the Secretary of the Army to rethink a regulatory barrier that is keeping Alaskan-trained and -educated substance abuse counselors from providing care and therapy to returning soldiers.

Presently, the criteria for being hired by the U.S. Army as an Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) counselor includes accreditation from a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Program (CACREP), which are prevalent in the contiguous 48 states – but Alaska does not have a CACREP-accredited institution.  Similarly, the Army requires that candidates pass a National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), while Alaskan counselors must pass the National Counselor Exam.  Because of these protocols, there are currently no permanent ASAP counselors at Fort Wainwright. With many worthy and educated candidates in Alaska for such critically needed positions, Senator Murkowski was compelled to send a letter (attached) to Army Secretary John M. McHugh reading:

“At a time when we are drawing down combat operations in Afghanistan and creating tremendous stress and uncertainty over force structure issues, it is absolutely imperative we have the full complement of ASAP counselors in place to care for our servicemembers and their families.”

Later in her letter, Murkowski suggests a potential fix, encouraging the Army to “consider a state-specific waiver for the CACREP-accreditation and NCMHCE. Ultimately, hiring authorities have the ability to choose the best-qualified candidate. The requirements just need to be crafted for Alaska in such a way to give them a sufficient pool of applicants.”

Murkowski hopes to open a dialogue with the U.S. Army to find a practical and responsible solution for Alaska’s soldiers that also opens the door to new jobs for qualified candidates held back by this restrictive guideline.